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Do You Work More Than 40 Hours a Week?

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40 HoursI only discovered this INC article published on the Time website in which Geoffrey James discussed the diminishing returns of working more than forty hours a week for more than a few weeks. The article starts with the realization, remember this was written in early 2012, that the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, went home at 5:30pm every day to be with her kids. It continues with some editorial but the argument in the post was that working 40 hours a week for long periods of time wasn’t going to be good for the employee or the employer.

I know plenty of people who works forty-plus hours a week. They go in on weekends, they work long hours during the day, and it’s all in the name of productivity. Some of these people have been doing it for years. There’s one guy who doesn’t feel right unless he goes in on weekends and we joke that one day he’ll come home and be surprised to find out that his kids are going off to college (he doesn’t have kids yet). The difference with many of them is that they love what they do. The forty-plus is less of a grind for them and more of a voluntary thing that they enjoy doing because, honestly, college wasn’t a 40 hour a week job. It was often 70 hours or 80 hours a week. When we made the transition to “work,” it was a step down to only do 50!

That said, we’ve also lived in a period of relative prosperity in which many in that industry (defense) who performed well also had good job security. You devoted sixty hours a week to the job and it was extremely unlikely you would get fired. It can sometimes feel like the company “owes” you for your devotion and hard work but they don’t. When the numbers stop adding up, you won’t be part of the numbers and that’s simply the sad reality of how business works.

When working, I never had many 60 hour weeks. There were a few times when I was working on a proposal where I’d put in some pretty big weeks but it wasn’t ever for long stretches of time. A couple weeks of 60 hours a week can show you how hard you can push. The research says there’s diminished productivity and risks of burning out but I never worked 60+ hours for long enough for that to kick in, fortunately, but I suspect it’s there. I was also unmarried, no kids, and what I was risking was simply time at the gym or in front of the television.

To do that today for too long would not be healthy for me physically or emotionally, as it’s no longer just TV time that gets lost. It’s quality time with family and I don’t want to come home one day and find out my kids were at college. :)

(Photo Credit: darkmatter)

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14 Responses to “Do You Work More Than 40 Hours a Week?”

  1. Michelle says:

    If you add in what I do for extra income, then I definitely work over 40 hours per week since I already work over 45 hours per week at my salaried job. Like you said, when I was in undergraduate and graduate school, I was taking anywhere from 4 to 8 classes each semester, while also working full-time (and still doing extra income stuff). So even though I am busy, I definitely feel less busy than before.

  2. JV says:

    Fully agree. If you cannot get it done in 40 hours per week, you are working too long at 60 hours per week and losing alot of quality and quantity time with your family. One day you may come home to find your spouse not around anymore and just gone. I’m not saying I hope that happens or believe it ever should, but sadly it does. Keep your quality time and quantity time in perspective.

  3. Steph says:

    My transition from grad school (practically 24/7) to career was a relief! Now my boss (same prof I worked under as a grad student) doesn’t expect me to work on the weekends (usually). Even if he sends an e-mail after hours, especially on Sat/Sun, I don’t feel bad for not responding until Monday morning, mostly because I can’t access my work e-mail from home.

    Being salaried, I don’t get paid for working beyond 40/wk, and I know that there will be times when our research may require some late nights or weekends, but I certainly don’t intend on putting in those extra hours until it is absolutely necessary.

    This is my policy because I’ve learned from past experience that if I start to work more when it’s not necessary, I will be expected to continue the routine. Also, I worked 2 semi-full time (30hrs/wk each) jobs for a summer in college and had a mental breakdown near the end, which isn’t something I want to every experience again! Additionally, I expect to take on a second job soon to payoff my student loans quicker, and I’d rather work those extra hours and get paid for them than to more or less donate them to my salaried position.

  4. I feel lately like I work all the time. Now I just gotta figure out how to get paid for it. :-)

  5. I work more than 40 hours a week but I have a full time job and do consulting on the side.

  6. Demi says:

    40 hours a week today is a short week for me. My company has provided us with connectivity from home and while out and about. And to be honest…I have no idea why other than so they can take advantage of the workers and expect instant responses. This has started to really grind on myself and a lot of my fellow workers and many of us put our cell phones…really mini-computers anymore…down and off at 5PM. Then the home phone rings next. WTF! If companies want that much out of us…then pay us for it. Instead we hear the old: you can and will be replaced. So be it. I’d like to see a question on how many people have lost their minds…even their health…by not drawing a line when the day is over. I have drawn the line. And I will continue to do so. This “you are a salaried employee” crap rips the employee and the government off in overtime to begin with. Other countries laugh at Americans because we do work so much. Some work 30-32 hour work weeks and/or take breaks in the middle of the day.

  7. Christian L. says:

    Jim,
    I have no intention to work more than 40 hours a week at any point in my life. While work is important, my personal life will always take precedence. Money can’t buy time with my friends and family.

    Americans overwork. It leads to stress, which causes a number of unhealthy habits.

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  8. scott says:

    This is part of the reason a high % of teachers leave the profession within 5 years.

    All good teachers work far more than 40hrs a week.

  9. Sadie says:

    Anyone who is employed should realize, we are all on “pay for performance” no matter what the job may be.

    However, some people may be only motivated via a pay check vs how much one is willing to give their company provides a unknowing gap in job satisfaction. Consequently one experiences that diminishing return as mentioned in the INC article.

    Though the extra hours/wk devoted to a job may not ensure job security it does enable one to move forward without wondering “what if” I had given more.

  10. sheri says:

    Over the past 25+ years I have worked 40/50 and up to 70 hours a week. The past 2 months have been exhausting (50+ hours) of non stop stress. I’m exhausted, bored, frustrated and disenchanted with my work. I don’t know how much longer I can hold out. The fear (in this economy)is holding me back from pursuing another job. My age is also a factor.

  11. Matt says:

    Working longer than 40 hours is a reality for some of us, not one we can ignore. But is it possible that you might be able to complete the same list of tasks within 40 hours? I think the lost off productivity when working long periods of time is hard to notice just like burn out doesn’t happen overnight.

  12. Shirley says:

    Our son recently left a salaried management position because he was now working 50-60 hours/six day weeks. The money was good but he could no longer participate or even attend school and sports functions for his two young children.

    He found another job almost immediately for less money but enough to take care of his family. His comment was, “The money will have to wait because the kids won’t.”

  13. admiral58 says:

    I work about 45 hours per week, with an extra 20 or so studying at night for a designation I have to get. Not too big of a deal.

  14. Ben says:

    Life is way too short to spend it working bonus hours. Great, so you spent 60 hrs last week at work, and by the time you get to the weekend or your following days off, and you are too exhausted to actually live? Boring. I might not be rich, and probably never will be, but I can and do travel every single weekend, sometimes taking Friday’s and part of Mondays off. I do make enough to support the people who count on me, and I’ve seen parts of the world most people will never see. Well, maybe if you make it to retirement and then travel at that point in your life… Why wait?


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